Odai and Qusai Hussein, the ace of hearts and ace of clubs respectively, in the popular deck of most-wanted-in-Iraq cards, have met a fate similar to the thousands they were personally responsible for killing. The only downside is that they died more quickly than many of the victims of their atrocities. Hell has surely welcomed them with open, flaming arms. The family that kills together gets to burn together.
How bad were these guys? According to the U.S. State Department's Web page titled "Iraq: Crimes Against Humanity," Qusai "swiftly helps Saddam eliminate any real or perceived threat to the regime by using bloody and shocking 'tools of repression' to blackmail, force confessions and destroy opponents." He authorized "interrogation, jailing and execution of political prisoners and their families." Between 1988 and 1999, he "periodically ordered executions of several thousand inmates" in what was referred to as "prison cleansing." Maybe he thought it a way to reduce the recidivism rate.
Odai, Saddam's eldest son, had been marginalized in favor of his younger brother, but he brought his own set of bloody hands and a history of "extreme violent behavior including murder, torture and rape of women and girls," says the State Department. In one especially well-known deviant act, he tortured and jailed members of Iraq's national soccer team for losing games. He was "heavily involved in Iraq's smuggling against U.N. sanctions and in illicit financial dealings."
Surely Saddam's days are also numbered. Bush administration officials have said it is just a matter of time before the rest of the deck of cards is found. Osama bin Laden, take note. Now that the Hussein sons are dead and soon, it is hoped, Saddam is also put out of the world's misery, we will see if Iraqis welcome freedom. I suspect most will, except hard-line clerics who care more about lording it over others than knowing God.
As much as we might wish to celebrate the removal of the Hussein family as a threat to their own and other civilizations, other dictators and "evil ones," as President Bush likes to call them, will confront us. According to the Jerusalem Post (July 21) (which quotes a "senior Israel Defense Force officer"), Hamas, one of the most militant of the terrorist groups in the region, is using the cease-fire negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to build more than 1,000 Kassam rockets in an effort to change the balance of power in the region.
An Israeli brigade commander in Gaza is quoted as saying that should hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians resume, it will be "much more violent." The newest Palestinian textbooks used at virtually all grade levels make sure that a new generation of children will be indoctrinated in the same hatred of Jews and the West that has infected their parents' generation.
On the domestic political front, it seems critics of the Bush administration are being set up for a mighty fall. After calling President Bush a liar and deceiver for getting America into a war to topple Saddam Hussein, the Democratic presidential candidates and not a few newspaper editorial pages and columnists will have a lot of crow to eat for suggesting the post-war situation is going badly and the administration had no post-war plans. Now that Odai and Qusai are identified as having died in the well-coordinated attack in Mosul, and if Saddam himself is taken dead or alive, if celebrating occurs in the streets, and if something like self-rule is slowly established in Iraq, what will the likes of John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and especially Howard Dean, the most critical of all of the presidential candidates, say then?
Much could still go wrong, but much could also go right. Are the president's critics prepared for success? The president's supporters are. And so are the long-suffering Iraqi people.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.